Oxyria digyna is a perennial herb in the buckwheat family (Polygonaceae), with many fleshy, rounded basal leaves and a branching reddish raceme, found in slide rock, meadows and moist, shady sites. Plants grow up to 30 cm tall from a caudex. The leaves are long-petioled, reniform, somewhat wavy-margined and often reddish. The stem is leafless and hairless, often red. Flowers are borne in branching racemes. The many small flowers are petal-less, instead bearing four green-to-reddish tepals, surrounding 6 stamens. The fruits have a membranaceous red wing as broad as the seed. The reniform leaves and petal-less red raceme distinguish this species from others in Denali.
Oxyria digyna flowers early to mid-summer. The plant is perennial, but the leaves are not persistent.
This species is monoecious with bisexual flowers. Oxyria digyna is wind-pollinated, producing abundant pollen. The fruits are seeds surrounded by a winged, papery membrane, also allowing them to be wind dispersed. Plants can also spread vegetatively via rhizomes.
The sour leaves of Oxyria digyna are edible. Traditionally (and to this day) Alaskan Natives would eat the leaves raw, boil them in water or preserve the leaves in seal oil. They are still considered a choice wild green.
Oxyria digyna is cosmopolitan, circumpolar, broadly distributed through North America and Eurasia. This distinctive small plant occurs across Alaska in suitable habitats. In Denali, O. digyna also occurs occasionally across the park on both sides of the Alaska Range.
Oxyria digyna is an alpine and subalpine species. It most frequently occurs in Denali at elevations above 1100 feet. It prefers steep and very steep slopes. It is infrequently found on southern aspects, preferring north facing or east/west-facing slopes.